The Social Security Administration (SSA) has removed the term “mental retardation” from its terminology and replaced it with “intellectual disability.”
The change follows an Obama initiative three years ago to remove the term from federal usage. Advocates for the mentally impaired argue the phrase has a negative connotation and can lead to misunderstanding about the individual’s illness or unique challenges.
These changes will especially affect the Social Security Disability (SSDI) wing of the administration, because people with intellectual disability may qualify for SSDI, depending on the severity of their condition. They have to apply for the benefits just like anyone else, which means they often need assistance in filling out the forms and making their case.
It may come as a surprise that the process isn’t much different for someone with severe intellectual disability as it is for someone with a back sprain. After all, whether from birth or a later accident, spinal cord injury and brain damage can make it impossible to understand the complicated legal jargon. Usually it’s necessary for a friend or family member to help them through the process.
If a person with intellectual disability or some form of brain damage applies for SSDI and gets denied, they can still appeal. A kind, compassionate attorney will be happy to help them put together a strong appeal case. This is what I do all the time, and I have a great staff supporting the effort, too.
As certain words become tools for bullying and abuse, it breaks my heart for those people who desperately need a helping hand. The change in terminology is a first step, but we also need the federal government, lawyers, and the appellate courts to treat our disabled neighbors with the respect they deserve and help them navigate this complicated process.
If you or a loved one has been denied SSDI for an intellectual disability, we would love to help you. Contact me today to discuss your situation. The conversation is free.